Oklahoma lawmakers appear to have come to a compromise on an education package, but Democrats are still hoping to add a few of their ideas to the plan before the legislative session ends.

“As we inch closer to sign and die, we were hoping to see a budget very soon, but we haven’t seen that yet,” said House Minority Leader Cyndi Munson (D).

In a press conference today, House Democrats laid out their budget priorities. House Democrats are looking to make investments in transportation, infrastructure, health and wellness, criminal justice reform and education.

Representative Mickey Dollens from Oklahoma City says he hopes they improve the OKC airport and wants to look at funding a bullet train here in the state for easy travel from Oklahoma City to Tulsa.

Representative Dollens also talked about the importance of continuing funding for public television in the state, like OETA.

Representative John Waldron from Tulsa is hoping to invest in criminal justice reform.

“For $70 million we could fund a statewide system of drug programs and statewide systems and alternatives to incarceration that would greatly reduce the populations in our prisons and would take the weight off of so many Oklahoma families,” said Rep. Waldron.

The biggest topic of disagreement between the chambers, Democrats and Republicans, has been education.

Republican lawmakers laid out their comprehensive education package Monday, that will cost a total of $625 million.

This will be broken down into a few parts: $500 million additional dollars into the funding formula: this will include funding teacher pay raises: $2,000 to $5,000 based on years of experience; the money will also fund six weeks of paid maternity leave for teachers, and the remaining money will be dispersed to public schools in the state.

That will also give $125 million into the state’s redbud funding- that is grant money that goes to lower income schools.

“Proud to get this across the finish line for Oklahomans,” said Governor Stitt.

“This is a historic education package for our state,” said House Speaker Charles McCall.

“Kids win, parents win, and teachers win,” said Speaker Pro Tem Greg Treat.

This comes after months of disagreement from the House, Senate and Governor Stitt about where education dollars should be spent.

“Even though we did have different ideas in the beginning, we did come together as colleagues and as friends with one goal in mind and that goal was to help children,” said House Education Chair Rep. Rhonda Baker (R).

While Republicans are celebrating what they call a win for Oklahoma education, House Democrats say the education plans need some work.

“We know many Oklahomans are being left behind in the budget process,” said Rep. Munson.

House Democrats are calling to double the teacher pay raises that Republicans passed and add raises for support staff.

“You can go to McDonalds, you can go to Amazon, and you can make more than a support staff employee taking care of a child with autism or a bus driver or a cafeteria worker,” siad Rep. Melissa Provenzano (D-Tulsa).

They are on board with the six weeks of paid maternity leave.

“That’s one of the positive pieces,” said Rep. Provenzano.

But they don’t like that private school tax credits are contingent on this public school funding plan being signed into law.

“Republican leaders announced their education plan which hinged on private school funding and has kept other discussions for the budget behind closed doors,” said Rep. Munson.

While it’s not attached, this also means the tax credit plan for private and homeschool families is one step closer to the governor’s desk. 

Two weeks ago, the House and Senate passed a tax credit plan, but the House captured the plan and said they were holding it in their chamber until the Senate passed a public school funding plan.

The House and Senate are working in joint appropriation and budget committees this week on the education plans. They are hoping to get all of the public funding legislation passed by the end of the week.

Related Posts